We've pointed out that a whole series of studies
have all suggested that the biggest infringers of content online also tend to be the best customers of content, rather than just "freeloaders" who refuse to pay for content. Critics of these studies brush them off (without any evidence) by simply saying if that were true, then sales of content wouldn't have dropped so much in the music industry (other industries, it should be noted, have not seen such a drop-off). But that's misunderstanding (or misapplying) basic statistics. No one is saying that this means that file sharing automatically leads to more sales. But it does suggest that treating those people as just "freeloaders who just want stuff for free" is absolutely the wrong response. It shows that these people are willing
to pay money if they're given a good reason to buy
. The problem is that they're not
From a strategic standpoint, this impacts how one responds to increased "piracy." If you realize that they're merely underserved customers, the correct response is to come up with better business models. If the problem is that it's "free, free, free!" then perhaps enforcement could make some sense. But... all of the studies seem to suggest it's the former, rather than the latter... and thus the enforcement/stricter copyright responses won't help at all (as we've seen).
Joe Karaganis, from SSRC, points us to the news that there's been yet another such study... and this one is from HADOPI, itself
. Yes, the French agency put together to kick people off the internet for file sharing did a study on the nature of unauthorized file sharing, too. Not surprisingly (and consistent with every other study we've seen on this topic), it found that those who spend a lot of money on content... were much, much, much more likely to also get content through unauthorized means. HADOPI released the results in a somewhat convoluted way (perhaps trying to downplay this result), but Karaganis reformatted the results to make this clear:
Karaganis suggests, then, that HADOPI's method of dealing with this -- threatening people to stop their file sharing, won't do very much to help the bottom lines of the entertainment industry:
If piracy is a sampling and discovery tool for high spenders, then suppressing piracy could depress legal sales. If–as I’ll argue at more length in a subsequent post–we’re in a mostly zero-sum market in which consumers are maxed out on discretionary media expenditures, then enforcement won’t significantly expand but at best just cannibalize one media sector for another. Music, games, and movies, let’s say, competing for the same discretionary dollars–and all of them competing with rising, increasingly non-discretionary internet access and data charges. If we’re in this type of market, then HADOPI is just in the business of eliminating its best customers. Good luck with that business model.
And suppressing the means of communication at the same time -- collateral damage for no good purpose. Brilliant!